“Life of Brian” a tribute to Jesus says Ratzinger prize winner

One of Britain’s most respected theologians says the Church missed a real opportunity to use Monty Python’s Life of Brian as a way of reinforcing Jesus unique message.

Reverend Prof Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London, said, once denounced as blasphemous and an insult to Christians, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, is in fact a “remarkable tribute to the life of Jesus”.

He said those who called for the satire to be banned after its release in 1979 were “embarrassingly” ill-informed and missed a major opportunity to promote the Christian message.

Burridge was speaking as Michael Palin devoted a slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, which he was invited to guest edit.

Burridge is the only non Catholic to be presented with the 2013 Ratzinger Prize by Pope Francis.

Jesus’s only appearance in the film is during the Sermon on the Mount. Brian is standing at the back of the multitude and cannot hear, mistaking “Blessed are the Peacemakers” for “Blessed are the Cheese-makers”.

Prof Burridge said that the fact that the Pythons had set out to write a satire about Jesus but had to resort to using a fictional failed messiah was a tribute to the uniqueness of Christ which Christians had failed to capitalise on.

He said: “What is interesting about what Cleese says is that when they sat down to read the gospels they were struck by Jesus, his teaching, and realised that you couldn’t actually make a joke of these things which is why the accusation from Mervyn Stockwood and Malcolm Muggeridge that they were trying to use Jesus was so patently false.

“I think it is an extraordinary tribute to the life and work and teaching of Jesus – that they couldn’t actually blaspheme or make a joke out of it.

“What they did was take ordinary British people and transpose them into an historical setting and did a great satire on closed minds and people who follow blindly.

“They were satirising closed minds, they were satirising fundamentalism and persecution of others and at the same time saying the one person who rises above all this was Jesus, which I think is remarkable and I think that the church missed that at the time,” said Burridge.

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